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Land grabbing by Navy and Special Task Force, Sri Lnka

17 July 2010: 150 families in Ragamwela and Shastrawela villages violently chased from their homes by armed men and 1,220 acres of land confiscated and no one was informed for what


In Ragamwela and Shastrawela (Eastern Province) the Sri Lanka Navy and the Special Task Force confiscated 1,220 acres of forestland, wetlands and agricultural lands. 265 acres of this total is from Ragamwela (Panama) while 115 acres of land and 840 acres of forestland under the control of Department of Forest Conservation are from Shastrawela. In the area it has been proposed to establish a Ranawiru Village, a Navy Camp and a Hotel Complex. The forestland appropriated is situated in the Ragamwela Government Forest, Ulpassa, Shasthrawela while the rest of the land are croplands belonging to local residents. [1] Following the statement by local communities the lands grab began on 17 July 2010, when 150 families from the villages of Ragamwela and Shastrawela were violently chased from their homes by armed men. They attacked the villages, burned the houses and threatened the villagers to dissuade them from returning. Immediately afterwards, Army units erected fences around nearly 500 hectares of farm land and forest, preventing the villagers from having access and cultivating the land. [2] Entrance to the land appropriated has been restricted except for the officers of the Navy and Special Task Force.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Land grabbing by Navy and Special Task Force, Sri Lnka
Country:Sri Lanka
State or province:Ampara district
Location of conflict:Shastrawela (Lahugala)
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Military installations
Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Specific commodities:Land
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

1,220 acres has been appropriated by the Sri Lanka Navy and the Special Task Force. 265 acres of this total is from Ragamwela, Panama while 115 acres of land and 840 acres of forestland under the control of Department of Forest Conservation are from Shastrawela

Project area:454
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:350 families
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:Sri Lanka Navy
Sri Lanka Special Task Force
Relevant government actors:Department of Forest Conservation
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA)
Forest Department
Archaeological Department
Defence Ministry
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Panama-Paththuwa Surekeeme Sangvidhanaya
Centre for Environmental Justice
People’s Alliance for Right to Land - PARL
Sri Lanka Nature Group ‐ SLNG 
Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR)
Asian Peasant Coalition (APC)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Informal workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsWetlands of the Coastal Zone have also been used for this project. The animals living in these habitats face the risk of local extinction due to habitat loss and degradation.
The project area is a major habitat of the elephant. Therefore, with destruction of their habitat, the residents of the area are prone to Human-Elephant Conflict. Further, crop raids by elephants disrupt the livelihood activities of the villagers leading to many socioeconomic issues.
Since agricultural lands of the villagers have been acquired for the project, the villagers tend to find alternative land for their agricultural activities. This poses a threat to the other protected forests in the area.
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Section 20 of the Forest Conservation Ordinance, Amendment Act bearing No. 65 of 2009

The National Environmental Act No. 47 of 1980

Coast Conservation and Coastal Resources Management Act No. 57 of 1981

Archeological Ordinance bearing No. 49 of 1940

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1]Uprooting people from the land. Land grabbing, current status and trends in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Nature Group, People’s Alliance for Right to Land - PARL. June 2012  

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

web site of 'People's alliance for right to land'
[click to view]

[2] Article published on peuples solidaires web site: Sri Lanka: the Army deprives families of their land to benefit tourists
[click to view]

[3] News paper article from Colombo Telegraph: Human Rights Commission Is Inactive: Villagers of Panama protest land grabbing. Published on March 2014
[click to view]

News paper article from 'The sunday leader': Land Grab At Panama? By Nirmala Kannangara, 2013
[click to view]

Article from 'Chapter III': Regaining of Land in Panama by the people
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Centre for Environmental Justice (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Paola Camisani (EJOLT team, Barcelona)
Last update19/06/2015
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